Monday, December 16, 2013

Happy Birthday, Keith Richards

Keith Richards, aka Keith Richard (if you are going to change your name, change it, man) Rolling Stones guitarist will be 70 years old this Wednesday. There are better guitarists to be sure but I am not sure if anyone has ever played so passionately. I am reading his autobiography but I won't finish it before his birthday as I had intended.

"Life" is a nice bit of escapism for me. I used to be a reader but these days I mostly read blogs. I miss the old days sometimes. But back to "Life."

Some fun facts:

Keith Richard was a choirboy whose group once sang for the Queen.

Keith was a Boy Scout but got kicked out for slapping a subordinate.

The first time Keith and Bill Wyman visited Chess Records, Muddy Waters was painting the ceiling. He did odd jobs around the office. The Chess Family vehemently denies this.

Keith was banging Ronnie Spector when she was married to Phil Spector.

For ten years, Keith was New Music Express's reigning #1 "Rock Star Most Likely To Die." He fell to #9 about thirty years ago.

Plenty of tidbits here.

I haven't gotten to the part where he rags on Jagger. I am not really looking forward to it. For me the most interesting part of the biography was Keith's childhood in Post-War England. I also like his descriptions of the real Rastafarians, not the Johnny Dread Come Lately Bob Marley.

One problem the Stones faced was waking Keith for shows. I don't have the book in front of me but at one point he says something like, "The only wake up call I would answer was 'Ladies and gentlemen, the Rolling Stones."

Mick Taylor is still a mystery. He just up and left the Stones. If I was fortunate enough and talented enough to be in his shoes, wild horses couldn't drag me away.

Next to the early years, the most interesting part is the formative days of the Stones. We forget how many barriers Rock and Roll had thrown in its path. Not just waggish patriarchs but the jazz establishment, the folk establishment, The R&B purists. It was all very tribal in those days. Then there was the clique of show biz kingmakers who ruled England. Nothing quite like that in the US but there were barriers here as well.

The Stones' saddest song for me was "Angie." Now that I read that it was inspired by Keith's infant daughter who would not stop crying, the song is not at all sad. It's kind of funny now.

I have been singing "Before They Make Me Run" with transongstantiated lyrics much worse than I ever suspected. Not just one or two words. I heard the whole thing wrong. What a heartfelt song, though.

Keith is a true pop music scholar. He lost me a few times with his guitar workshop that comes across as wonkish as Steve Wozniak getting all giddy over floppy disks.

With a hundred plus pages to go, I hope I don't ultimately sour on the narrative. Wish me well.

Happy Birthday, Keith!

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